Saturday, 24 March 2018

Short week

Well my lurgy lasted and lasted, so I missed Monday to Wednesday at work. By Thursday I was feeling better in myself but the cold has gone into my sinuses where it still sits, making sleeping difficult and mornings disgusting.  I went into work Thursday afternoon for a half day then did a full day on Friday which was exhausting after being home for so long.  I don't know if it is middle age but I don't seem to be able to shrug colds off the way I used to.  I can't believe I'm saying this but it was actually nice to be back at work and out of the house, and doing something different. Much as I like doing my crafts, after several days without anything else to do, they don't seem quite as fun.

I finished quilting the Snowman quilt, bound it, and hung it up in the hall for a few days to enjoy it, even though it is really too big for the hanging space. This is an adaptation of a pattern I bought in Sisters, Oregon, ten years ago after seeing a version at the show. I also bought some of the fabrics there.  But I didn't actually start the quilt until winter 2015, it was a project in a sack for a long time. It was fun choosing additional scrappy fabrics and it's quite a cheerful quilt.


Now I've started grid quilting the Indigo Bear's Paw quilt with my walking foot on the sit down machine, sooooo tedious but it's got to be done.  I've started out with 1.5" intervals to match pieces in the block but I'm wondering if it looks too wide and I should cut that in half.


I've been hand appliqueing some flowers on my Hawaiian applique quilt but they are quite fiddly to do and there are so many of them, so this continues to be a long term project.


I also started a new knitting project from The Vintage Shetland Project, a weighty tome by Susan Crawford which turned up recently a couple of years after I contributed to its crowdfunding start up.  Susan and her family have made heroic efforts to document stitch by stitch a number of vintage Shetland garments.  The book contains 27 patterns recreating these vintage treasures, and contains a number of interesting essays about her research into the original knitters and the fashion history driving the Shetland knitting trends.  It's an enjoyable read, tempered by some non-ergonomic choices in the book design and some idiosyncratic writing habits such as frequent and apparently random italicisation of words. The book is quite heavy, has very small type, the captions for the photos are at the ends of each essay in microscopic type rather than located near the photos, and it is frustrating that she describes photos and garments in the essays which aren't always shown. There is a gallery of small photos of the vintage garments at the end of the essay section but you can't make out a lot of detail. Due to the faithful duplication of the vintage garments, a number of the garments might look a bit odd at the office unless you were known for your passion for vintage - ie very high necklines, oddly puffed sleeves, 1940s shoulder lines etc..  (There is a woman who gets off my train regularly who is dressed head to toe in 1940s style, very intriguing). But it's full of gorgeous fair isle motifs and colours, and some lovely lace patterns,  with large clear charts so it is a treasure trove of inspiration and stitch patterns.  And the photography is gorgeous, with plentiful pictures of each garment. I'm knitting the Harriet Mittens because I had some Jamieson 2 ply jumperweight in my stash, only I'm turning them into fingerless mitts because I prefer those for commuting.


On the Japanese dollshouse, I made some furniture pieces for the two extensions then moved on to the first floor section.  This week I have built one of the guest bedrooms and am currently working on the Tokonoma or decorative alcove for the back of the room.  I'm trying to use a real twig for the central post, which will look better but requires that the surrounding panels be carved to fit round its bulges which is challenging. The floor area will hold six tatami mats but I'm not putting them in until I'm done constructing the Tokonoma in case of accidents with glue or paint.


And that's about it this week.  Not much excitement apart from our pea-brained cat managing to get herself locked into the garden shed during the 20 minutes I ventured out to prune a rose on Wednesday.  We didn't realise until it was dark and she hadn't shown up for dinner, and of course when we tried to let her out, the key broke off in the padlock.  So there we are shining a torch on the padlock trying to worry out the broken key, with the cat piteously crying inside (serves her right, but it was upsetting DS).  We couldn't get the broken bit out so ended up getting a sledgehammer and bashing the heck out of the hasp until it bent enough that we could wedge the bottom of the door open sufficiently that she could come out.  I got the key out the next day in the daylight but the hasp needs replacing now and the door needs repainting.  Stupid cat.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Deja vu all over again

There is once again snow on the ground and I am once again home sick with a cold.  Grrr, there ought to be a law against getting two colds so close together.  Plus my manager is probably going to start wondering if I am just avoiding having to travel to work in the snow.  It's supposed to be spring, I was enjoying seeing all the bulbs poking out of the ground and now they are hidden under a blanket of white.  Ironically we are shifting to British Summer Time next weekend. This weather is so bizarre.

I've been snuggling under my new GAA Afghan while I work on my oldest outstanding quilt UFO, the Hawaiian applique quilt. This was hibernating in a cupboard for several months while I did other things waiting for me to make some templates for the flowers.  I've stitched down all the stems and leaves so it's only the ring of flowers  left to do on the main part of the quilt.  There's supposed to be a border after that but I may stop while I'm winning.

This week I was back at work (possibly where I caught the new germs) but in the evenings and on my day off I was working on the Japanese dollshouse, mostly on the extensions to the bathhouse and kitchen.  Although not very big, these were surprisingly involved with lots of steps to complete for interior and external detail.  I've also made a few accessories, and jumped ahead to complete the ceiling to the bath house.

The new spa ceiling, and some little stools

The kitchen sink - looking online I think these were made from stone so I've painted mine accordingly.  The weighing scales are for the spa changing room.

Then it was time to attempt to hinge the extensions onto the house.  I'd taken heed of the struggles of the original blogger who said the screws were horrible and the heads stripped easily.  I ruined two  screws (luckily they give you two spares) while I worked out the best combination of drill size and mini screwdriver, then managed to hinge on the two extensions.

This is what the ground floor of the house looks like with the extensions closed. The clapboard is now in place, and the changing room has a shoji rice paper screen.

The ground floor with the hinged extensions open

The changing room extension to the bath house with sliding doors

The kitchen extension


Train knitting has been the 10-stitch triangle shawl which is slowly growing in size.  You could probably use it as a head kerchief now.  And I've been doing some cross-stitch in front of the telly while I'm sick.

This weekend was supposed to be a lace weekend with an outing to the lace day in Oakley yesterday and getting together with lace friends today, but I had to drop out of both due to germs.  The thing today has been cancelled anyway because of the snow.  I should try to do some bobbin lace on my own but I just don't feel like concentrating on it.

I had a bit of good news last week, I'm getting a small raise at work which will be backdated to June so this month's pay cheque should have a small windfall.  I think I'm going to spend it on a mini disc sander to help with the dollshousing.  I already own a fairly vicious belt sander but it's both inaccurate and overkill for small dollshouse items: more likely to tear them out of your hand, destroy them, and spit them out into a far corner of the workshop than to reduce a bit of material like you intended. 

Sunday, 11 March 2018

An historic finish

Or 'A' historic finish, depending on your style preferences.  Anyway, I have finally finished The Great American Aran Afghan!



This was a series based on a design contest run by Knitter's Magazine in America and subsequently published as a pattern booklet of 24 squares.  According to my Ravelry page, I started my first squares in spring 2012. I finished my 20 squares in spring 2016, then it's taken me another two years to crochet join the squares and knit the twisted border.  So six years of intermittent work.  Most of the squares were quite fun to knit and also developmental for me as a knitter.  I couldn't afford to knit it in wool at the time, so I bought several big skeins of Hayfield Bonus Aran (80 acrylic, 20 wool) and thankfully did not run out, and it actually wasn't bad to knit with at all. The finished afghan feels nice, it's got a good weight to it and it's warm.  Probably not as warm as a wool afghan would be.  And despite the wide variation in my square size, it is lying reasonably flat.  It feels really good to have finally finished this long term project.

Minor alarm on the Japanese dollshouse front when I realised two of my instruction booklets had gone missing.  I couldn't find them anywhere but as DH had earlier done his usual Saturday morning rubbish collection around the house, it seemed an obvious possibility.  Sure enough, they had somehow ended up in the recycling bin outside the house, along with a parts diagram sheet that I hadn't even realised was gone.  So alarm over, although I don't know if I accidentally knocked them into the bin or if there was some overzealous collecting going on.  We've now had a refresher session on 'in the bin' versus 'near the bin' and which lot to leave alone.

Otherwise the house is proceeding along nicely.  The bathhouse is done now apart from I haven't glued the entrance wall in yet, and I've now opened up to Chapter 25 as I work on the two bay extensions for the bathhouse and kitchen. 
The finished bath house, with sliding wooden shutters. There will be
an internal wall along the edge of the floor which diverts bathers
into the front bay extension where the changing room is.  I really like
how 'watery' the water is.  I've got to make a bunch of little
wooden stools to go in here as well.  You sit on the stool and use the bucket
to completely clean yourself at the faucets before getting in the bath.


The two bay extensions, kitchen on the left and bath house on the right.
These hinge onto the front of the house.
One of my lacemaking friends came to visit and I was proudly showing off my handiwork on the house.  She looked at the massive box of almost 100 unopened chapters and announced in a nice way that I was obviously insane.  I don't know, I like building things and I like following instructions to build things, and I like the positive reinforcement of the many 'wins' as I complete each room or piece of furniture.  I think that's the reason many of us do crafts - unlike tasks that constantly have to be re-done like dishwashing or ironing, you have a concrete achievement that waits patiently until the next time you can give it some attention.

I actually did some work on my Bucks Point hexagonal edging this week and have reached the halfway point.  I really like how it looks but I do feel a bit bored with it now as I know how to do it and am not really learning anything new. It's taken me about eight months to get this far so probably another six or eight before it's finished at the level of attention I am giving it.  Obviously if I worked on it more often then it would go faster.  I like lacemaking but it's not something I want to sit and do for hours and hours, generally after a couple of hours I've had enough, my eyes are tired, my pin pushing finger is getting sore and my back aches from bending towards the pillow even though I try to sit up straight.  I know a lot of lacemakers who go to the courses at Knuston Hall which is relatively local, and I've felt tempted, but at the end of the day I don't think I would enjoy sitting doing lace for several days.  On a quilting course, say, you are moving around a lot more as you sew, cut, press, lay out blocks etc. so it's physically more varied.

The garden seems to have survived the snowfall although it remains to be seen if we've lost any herbaceous plants. Suddenly it is driving fast into spring, and the first daffodils are starting to appear.  The crocuses I rescued from the old hedge when we replaced it, then replanted in the new bed, are all blooming away. Although it turns out I missed several bulbs which are also blooming now around the new lavender hedge.  I went out with the claw thingy yesterday and loosened the soil around the plants yesterday - we have quite sandy soil so I don't think it needs proper digging.




Sunday, 4 March 2018

Snow bound

It's been a strange week.  Weatherwise, the Beast from the East brought days of snow and sub-zero temperatures, very unusual for this part of England and for this time of year.  I don't think I've ever known it to be so cold for so long since I arrived almost 30 years ago. Normally I would have been struggling to get to work with my two mile walk through the snow, but Monday night I went down quite suddenly with a rotten head cold and I've been home sick ever since.  With the terrible weather, there was no attraction to go out even if I had felt well enough so it was sort of a mixed blessing.  DH was home as well on Thursday and Friday after his journey to work took four hours on Wednesday (normally one hour) due to accidents and road closures.  So we were all snowbound together like being shut up in some big log cabin.  Luckily we had enough food and milk for the first few days and of course lots of hobbies to do.  I was feeling on the mend by Thursday night and if the weather had been better I might have gone back to work on Friday, but the scene outside killed any motivation.  I even had to stop washing paintbrushes in the basement sink because the external waste pipe had frozen solid and the water wouldn't drain any more.  It felt like a long extended limbo, punctuated by lots of nose blowing  :)

The cat had the right idea for the weather.


But suddenly it's all thawing and the temperatures are rising fast.  Some green is showing on the lawn after days of being blanketed with white - I just hope we haven't lost too many plants.  We went out today in the car for the first time in days, to do some shopping with DS who has just been offered his first proper job. He'll be working in London with an accountancy firm on their graduate trainee scheme starting in a few weeks.  So it was off to the mall for a new suit and all the accompaniments that go with it, with DS being visibly torn between his loathing of shopping and his slightly terrified recognition that he will need all these things soon.  I'm very proud of him but secretly a bit sorry for him as well to have to leave his relatively carefree student life behind and join the daily working grind of adult life.  But on the other hand I don't want him still living here in his 30s!

So apart from the first few days of being ill, I've been spending a lot of time down in the basement working on the Japanese dollshouse.  I've been trying to keep the fan heater running a lot more frequently, even though it's annoying, in case the cold down there contributed to my illness in the first place.

My trolley arrived (Amazon were seemingly unhampered by the snow) and DS put it together for me.  It's holding all the tools and paints brilliantly, leaving me much more working area.


After doing a couple of the new chapters, I became impatient with the partwork approach of doing a wall (or maybe just part of a wall) plus a bit of furniture in each instalment.  This results in a lot of instructions such as for example leaving 2mm gaps when you are gluing on rafters, because a couple of chapters later the next wall has to fit into that 2mm gap.  But inevitably you didn't leave enough gap, or too much gap. Multiply this by three sides on every wall and ceiling, and no wonder the other bloggers were complaining that nothing fits together properly.  I gave up on that approach, and jumped ahead to cherry pick all the chapters which had the walls, floors and ceilings for the ground floor so that I could work on all structural elements sequentially.  While raising the risk of losing tiny bits of not-yet-required furniture or shutters, it meant that I could trial fit all the walls and floors that were meant to fit together and adjust notches or sand off excess as required, and see exactly where gaps needed to be left in decoration.  It became fairly intensive as I ended up working on around eight chapters at the same time but I eventually achieved a complete ground floor structure.  So now I can go back and sweep up the extraneous bits of decoration and furniture one chapter at a time.  I have little piles of partly-opened chapters all around the room with numbered post-its stuck on each one waiting for me to get to them.


I really like this entrance hallway, with the Mt Fuji window and its shoji sliding rice paper window screens.  I added some lasercut paper decoration I found at Colemans on the outside of the rice paper.  The overhead opening is awaiting the stairs which get constructed later.  The tatami mats in the corner are the first of many to be built  throughout the house, you make them out of real tatami so not exactly in scale but they feel very authentic.  The cabinet was built over two chapters and had especially fiddly sliding doors but I got there in the end.  The two beckoning cats are both souvenirs from our trip to Japan a few years ago.


The spa is still under construction.  The round wall mural is actually a coaster which we bought in Japan but it looks good here.  The decorative ceiling gets built many chapters later so I've decided to wait for that to turn up.

The kitchen has a ceiling now, another shelving unit, and both a sliding outside door, and sliding doors into the central hallway.

A picture for scale, and showing one of the tiny spa buckets that are in the kit, you have to wind wire around them, I've got another half dozen to do.

I'm sorry if you are reading this blog for the quilting or lacemaking because there has been very little of that this week!  I did pin my Snowman Quilt  up on the design wall to see how much more I need to quilt.  It's probably about 75% done now. Ironically it's been very seasonal this week.


I did a bit of work on my Bucks point hexagonal edging but it was halfhearted.  In the evenings I've been knitting on my GAA Afghan twisted cable edging, I am slowly approaching the final corner.  And I've moved on to the next little ball of yarn on my 10-stitch triangle shawl.

So it's back to work tomorrow for the first time in a week, if I can remember how to get there and what it is I actually do...

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